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Tell us about yourself:
I was born and raised in Puerto Rico. I love adventure, people, and discovering new places so, somehow, I always knew I wanted to work in hospitality. It was my great honor to earn my hotel management degree at the prestigious Cornell University, School of Hotel Administration, which has a branch in Isla Verde not far from my hometown. Once I graduated, I started my career as a front desk manager. Over the years, I worked my way up through various roles to general manager at resorts throughout the Caribbean. I feel really lucky that my life has been so exciting, filled with many new experiences and opportunities to learn from the interesting people I meet. When I was offered the opportunity to become the general manager of Crocodile Bay Resort, I jumped at the chance, despite having never visited. Within a month, I was on a plane, ready to start my next adventure – this time, in the jungle.
What is the most interesting request you’ve ever had from a guest?
Once, during Costa Rica’s rainy season, I received a request to stop the rain and improve the weather! I’ll never forget it. Unfortunately, while I wasn’t able to satisfy my guest’s request, I was able to offer them a bird-watching experience, which is incredible at that time of year. If you look closely, it’s possible to spot more than 30 different types of indigenous birds within a one-mile radius of the resort.
What is the most challenging experience you’ve ever handled at your resort?
During a severe rainstorm, one of our fishing boats got loose from the dock. It was a bit challenging to save the boat and suffice it to say, there was a lot of teamwork, some splashing and swimming, but, after much huffing and puffing, luckily there was no damage to the boat or dock.
What’s your biggest professional accomplishment?
I’m proud of having successfully opened four hotels, especially “Monsieur” Cuisinart Golf Resort & Spa in Anguilla, British Virgin Islands. I’m also pleased to have a wonderful record of happy guests and provide mentorship to the talented professionals in our industry.
Best career advice you received:
Hendrick Santos, my former general manager at Hyatt Hotels in Puerto Rico (who is also my friend and mentor), taught me the importance of looking at the big picture, continuing to think out of the box, keeping my property in the best condition possible, and caring for my staff as much as I care for the guests.
What do you love most about your job?
I love inspiring positive change by creating memorable experiences for each guest who stays with us. The highlight of my day is hearing them say, “I don’t want to leave!” because that tells me our team provided them with a great experience. I also have fun working in an industry that is constantly evolving, allowing me to continually expand my passion for service.
Article on Rabin Ortiz derived from “The Friday Report – News for the Interval Holdings Family of Companies” June 14, 2019.
The history of the Osa Peninsula is steeped in mystery, and at one time this biologically intense place was a part of the ocean floor. However, as the volcanoes continued to erupt and the tectonic plates collided, an unbroken land bridge between North and South America formed, and the Osa Peninsula rose above the surface of the water. The land bridge between the great continents is in large part responsible for the incredibly high biodiversity found in this area.
Humans have visited the Osa Peninsula as far back as 6,000 BC, and various indigenous groups such as the Chiriquí and Borucas hunted in the lush rainforest of the peninsula.
Some 20 years after Christopher Columbus lands on the beach near Limon, explorer Gil Gonzalez Dávila met a local cacique or tribal chief named OSA, hence the name of the peninsula. Then in 1569, Sir Francis Drake visited the shores of the OSA and was alleged to have buried a treasure somewhere along the coastline, that has yet to be discovered.
As the next couple of centuries passed, the Osa became a place that time forgot. Then in the 18th-century, a Spanish naturalist named Fernandez de Oveido who was visiting the region was awestruck by the rich stock of flora and fauna. His plea to the locals was to take care of the forest, but his words went unheeded, and well into the 20th century clearing the jungle was considered the best way to improve the land.
In 1821, Costa Rica gained its independence from Spain, but most of the indigenous people of the Southern Zone were killed or driven out by the introduction of foreign diseases and coerced labor. The Osa Peninsula most likely became uninhabited, and the forest cover throughout the area expanded.
In 1848, Costa Rica became a Republic, and around that time, a colony of Panamanians were the first to migrate to the area around the Golfo Dulce. The Costa Rican president at the time sent a mission of colonists to compete. At that point in time, cattle became king on the Osa Peninsula.
By the end of the 19th century, a few naturalists had visited the Osa Peninsula. They faintly signaled that the Osa could someday become a territory of fundamental research. In the 1890s, a government-funded expedition focused on accurately mapping the southern region, intended to help legislators learn ‘just what was theirs and how best to exploit it’. This was also about the time that the original village of the Osa Peninsula, Santo Domingo, was taking root.
In 1910, the town changed its name in honor of the first president to ever visit the Osa Peninsula, Ricardo Jimenez. At the time, the settlers of the Osa processed and sold coconut derivatives and other local produce to passing steamships. Also around this time, the Osa was gaining a reputation as a place to drop off criminals in the most remote locations of the peninsula. The natural barriers of the area basically isolated these lawless individuals to a life of fending for themselves in the wilds of the last frontier.
In the 1930s, things started to change on the Osa. The United Fruit Company (UFC) decided to desert the Atlantic region and to move to the Pacific side because of a deterioration of the land near the Caribbean coast. In 1937, the UFC moved to the Pacific on a land swap with the government and ended up owning much of the territory outside the Osa’s previously settled areas. To the locals, UFC was known as “el pulpo”, the ‘octopus’. Also, Puerto Jimenez was an agricultural town of a few hundred that became home to the Costa Rican Banana Company (a subsidiary of United Fruit Company) which was exploiting hardwoods and exploring the Pacific lowlands of Central America for precious woods and to increase their plantings of banana and oil palm.
Also at this time, gold was discovered on the Osa. This is where myth and storytelling shade the truth. Some say it was the criminals who discovered the valuable metal when they were left to live or die on this natural penal colony. Others say it was a settler who found gold dust in a shell on the beach. Whatever the truth might be, the Osa was now gaining notoriety as the last frontier, which was lawless yet full of opportunity. Gold mining began in earnest in 1937 on the Gulfo Dulce side of the Rio Tigre. The gold miners reached the Madrigal River, limit to present-day Corcovado National Park, in 1939. After discovering gold in the sand on the beach there, a “gold rush” began, complete with a movie theatre, general store, brothel and bar. This was short-lived.
In 1938, Puerto Jiménez had grown into a slightly larger and less demure frontier town gaining an airstrip with passenger flights to San José.
Big mining companies descend on the Carate River in the 1940s. And in 1943, the United Fruit Company company determined the Osa’s soils, topography, and accessibility were not apt for banana production. Shortly after, the company deeded all 13 of its Osa properties comprising 47,513 hectares (117,357 acres), about one-third of the peninsula, to a retiring company engineer.
In the 1950s, Puerto Jimenez town center was moved to its present location. “In those days the streets were grass,” says Anita Polanco, who initially arrived on the Osa in the late 1930s in search of gold… “It was a very small place, and all the families knew each other. There were the Quintero, the Cevallo, the Aguirres, the Chavarria, the Pinzon family, the Lescano, the Francesqui, some 25 families … “.
Professional crocodilian hunters had hunted caiman and crocodiles around Corcovado between 1944-69, harpooning, skinning and selling their hides in Puntarenas for exportation to Japan. Their business disappeared in the late 1960s when plastics imitating animal skins destroyed the hide market.
In 1957, a U.S. owned company Osa Forest Products (OFP) bought the 47,513 hectares of forest on the peninsula for $450,000 from the engineer’s widow. OFP was legally registered in Costa Rica in 1959 and given permission for forestry and mining concession of the Osa, which totalled 61,660 ha. Some squatters on OFP land had settled the territory over 40 years before OFP had arrived.
Beginning in the 1960s, there was increasing pressure on the forested regions of the Corcovado basin to convert them to pasture. The same pattern occurred on the east side of the Osa Peninsula, which had two-thirds of its landscape deforested with over 10,668 head of cattle by 1973.
In a little twist of irony, the manager at OFP Alvin Wright invites Leslie Holdridge (co-founder of the new San José-based Tropical Science Center TSC) and Joseph Tosi (TSC co-founder) to open a field station on OFP property at Rincon. They erect the Rincón de Osa field station building just south of the OFP airfield. The Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS) was founded in 1963 as a consortium of six United States universities and the University of Costa Rica.
In 1963, a survey found 83 existing homesteads on land titled to OFP. According to one veteran who had settled there in the mid-1960s, the entire population of the ‘gold rivers’ of the peninsula in 1967 comprised just eleven gold mining families.
Between 1962 and 1973, over a thousand scientists visited this tropical research outpost. Their environmental land use studies, along with conservation-oriented activity, soon provoke a revolutionary shift on the Osa. Curiously, this movement was promoted right under the nose of OFP, who would be directly affected by the actions of the scientists. Finally, in 1973, OFP shut down the TSC station due to the campaign that TSC and OTS scientists were carrying out to create a national park on OFP land in the Corcovado Basin (Cuenca del Corcovado).
By the early 1970s, things started to heat up on the Osa Peninsula. Control of its natural resources was at the center of the battle. The settlers and goldmines were coming up against the OFP in a fight for land rights. The foreign scientists were making inroads in defining the Osa as a jewel of fundamental research. And the Costa Rican government started taking notice as the Communist Party was getting a foothold in the southern zone and stirring discontent.
Between 1971 and 1973, charges of tax evasion, land-hoarding, repressive actions against settlers, corruption and other activities were levelled against OFP by congressmen from Costa Rica’s national legislature. OFP’s manager began massive road construction to force evictions in its holdings. Armed squatters captured OFP staff and a tractor in the Corcovado Basin, and warned that if OFP persisted in its attempts to evict settlers on their land, “blood would flow”. OFP asked the Rural Guard to come to its rescue, but they were weary.
In 1972, Christopher Vaughn, a Peace Corp volunteer, working under Alvaro Ugalde (Costa Rica National Parks), drew on the legacy of the Rincon Field Station and started looking at the OSA as a new national park. The scientists were wolves in sheep’s clothing concerning their use of OFP property while supporting the creation of a national park on the OSA.
Between 1972 and 1974, the Osa Peninsula’s population doubled. Construction of the Inter-American Highway South promoted the migration. OFP turned the focus of its energy towards resort development. They used strong-arm tactics to frighten settlers off OFP land. Hostility between OFP and locals continued, and in late 1973, an OFP guard was killed. There were 1,160 farmers occupying about 10,162 ha or 21% of OFP lands at the time.
In 1974, a dirt road connected the eastern coast from Rincon to Puerto Jimenez, the capital town with 600 inhabitants. There was no agricultural mechanization on the Osa Peninsula. Corn, rice and beans were planted in primitive ways, using a stick or hand-casting. Slash and burn agriculture was still prevalent. OFP started a new phase in their attack on the land… make money out of the OSA whether through gold dredging in the laguna, forestry, cattle ranching, or creating their own private park. Moreover, with the dry season coming, squatters started filing land claims to begin clearing the rainforest. There was also a Japanese company, Mitsui, planning to contract the Osa forests from OFP and grind it into chips.
By 1975, OFP had lost all control over the squatter’s situation. Chris Vaughn wrote at the time… ‘not one square meter it the Corcovado plain or in the nearby hills was not marked with boundary lines and claimed by an owner’. These were mostly speculators looking to clear land to resell at inflated prices. In the Corcovado Basin , gold miners spent most of their time panning for gold in the Claro river watershed. Most had no property, but travelled between claims, building temporary shacks along the rivers and streams. Their earnings averaged about US$15 a month. Few struck it rich, but many caught gold-fever.
By the end of 1975, OFP knew their lands on the OSA where being considered for expropriation so went to the president of Costa Rica to talk about a land swap. In October, President Oduber signed a degree exchanging lands of the OSA Corcovado Basin for the territories of the surrounding Baldios Nacionales. On the same day, he signed a decree establishing ‘Parque Nacional Corcovado’ in the Corcovado Basin… and a paper park was created. Costa Rican law requires that squatters be compensated in full for any “improvements” they make to land occupied for three months or longer before they can be removed. The National Parks Service original estimate of $176,000 for setting up the park (mostly to buy out squatters) later rose to at least $1.2 million.
Corcovado National Park (CNP) was the first Costa Rican park justified only based on its ecological and scientific merits, without reference to cultural attributes (like Santa Rosa) or recreational benefits (like Manuel Antonio).
In 1978, the Costa Rican government acquired the remaining OFP 16,000 hectares. They were also successful at relocating the approximately 300 farmers, along with their livestock, to the eastern side of the peninsula. However, the gold miners remained entrenched.
Corcovado National Park included extensions in 1978, 1980, and 1985.
In the early 1980s, dirt roads came to the Osa when president Oscar Arias signed the ‘Roads for Peace’ project with Ronald Reagan. The Osa exploded with a perfect storm of calamities that included: the collapse of the banana business in the gulf with widespread unemployment; the spillover from the wars of Nicaragua, El Salvador, and the contagious narco-militarism of Panama; gold peaked at atmospheric levels, and another gold rush began.
By 1983, an OSA gold rush was well underway due to the rising gold prices, economic crisis, local agriculture problems, and phony investment schemes. The Rural Guard evicted 1,500 miners from the park. A new Corcovado management plan was launched to deal with the invasion. Park headquarters moved from Sirena to Cerro de Oro to combat the miners. Alvaro Ugalde asked President Monge to declare the OSA in a state of emergency in 1985, and University of Pennsylvania biologist Dan Janzen was asked to conduct a study on the impact of gold mining in and around the park. It was his recommendation that led to the complete eviction of miners in 1986.
It was estimated that 2,000 miners were working in the rivers and on the beach in 1984. A government study in 1985 confirmed that 1,500 gold miners were working illegally in the park and an additional 3,500 were working in nearby areas. According to an estimate, the community above Madrigal Beach had approximately five hundred inhabitants living in two hundred makeshift houses.
In the 1990s, the U.S. Army Corps of engineers got busy building roads, bridges and schools on the Osa Peninsula while at the same time keeping a close eye on all of Ollie North and Noriega activity in the mountains high above the city of David, Panama.
In 1993, there was a campaign against the construction of U.S. corporate subsidiary Ston Forestal’s wood-chipping plant in an ecologically vulnerable location adjacent to the Golfo Dulce. This successful campaign, inspired and in part led by AECO (Costa Rican Ecologists’ Association), became a mostly Osa grassroots enterprise. This effort raised the ecological and conservation consciousness of many longtime Osa Peninsula inhabitants and served as a basis for interest in later local conservation agendas.
The government of Costa Rica at this time also widely married its economic future to the relatively new concept of ecotourism as Costa Rica became one of the world’s most prominent examples of sustainable development. In the 1990s, the last of the big mining companies left the Osa, and the first full-service eco-lodges on the peninsula such as Crocodile Bay started to develop.
And with that, ecotourism takes hold.
~ This article was written by Chris Graham
ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ. A sound I love. That is the sound of line peeling off a reel. The screaming noise at the moment was coming from a PENN spinning reel which was making that sweet sound. The PENN spinning reel I was using was part of the excellent collection of rods and reels that were on the boat while I was at Crocodile Bay in Costa Rica. All boats there are equipped with a wide array of updated PENN gear which is some of the best in the business. It always makes me feel more confident when using boat provided gear to have up to date products from a well- respected company.
It was late March and we were trolling for sailfish with live bait when our first mate Alex decided to tie on a green hoochie on a spinning outfit in case dorado were around. The dorado might have been around but for some reason the 70-80 pound sailfish ignored the live offerings for which sailfish normally prefer and attacked the hoochie. Just like a cheetah is the fastest animal in the jungle, most claim that sailfish are the fastest swimmers in the sea. They have been reported to hit speeds up to 68 mph. So, when they have your bait and are trying to get away, they are moving.
Our captain Freddy maneuvered the boat perfectly so I did not have to run around the boat as the sailfish fought. When the fish zigged and zagged so did he. The fighting was always done at the back of the boat. When the fish was finally at the boat, I was handed a pair of gloves to hold the dorsal fin and beak and take a photo. There are huge conservation efforts from FECOP which is the voice of fishing conservation in Costa Rica to ensure that the billfish population is treated with ‘kid’ gloves. These fish are not allowed to be brought out of the water for photos.
Right after fishing I took a quick shower and went into the spa for a massage. The spa is in a separate building on the grounds and has all of the amenities you could want. I asked for the deep tissue massage and told the girl to use as much pressure as possible. Note to self—this was a BAD idea. As she was digging her elbow into my back getting out knots she asked if it was too much pressure. Like a dummy I said no. I lied. Machismo at its finest or worst. I did feel wonderful afterwards though. Having a massage after fishing is a nice treat that not all places offer.
The reason I was back in Costa Rica after going last year? Redemption. I went to Crocodile Bay last May and wrote a story about it. The offshore fishing was off the charts one day. My friend Joe Bahash and I caught around 70 tuna and dorado combined along with a nice marlin. The next day we were supposed to go inshore fishing and after catching a roosterfish each Joe and I talked the captain into going offshore looking for the log we trolled around while catching the tuna and marlin a few days earlier. In hindsight we made a bad decision as it was rougher seas, we could not find the log and pretty much took a boat ride. And Joe and I had no one to blame but ourselves.
Since I screwed up on taking advantage of the inshore fishery in May 2018, I decided to come back and give myself the opportunity to experience the Golfito regions world class inshore fishery. Plus, I wanted to come back and experience the great spa, friendly service and Pura Vida (pure, simple life) lifestyle that Crocodile Bay Resort offers. All the things that make it a perfect choice for our non fishing wives to want to come back to also.
In between my two days of fishing, I went ziplining which was a rush. Sometimes you wonder about doing something like this in another country but it very safe and It was a very professional tour. Dennis the guide who took us spoke excellent English and had a good sense of humor. After the zipline it was a 15- minute jungle walk back to the van and Dennis pointed out numerous animals, birds and bugs that the rest of us never would have saw but were glad we did.
The second day of fishing was when we went inshore. Most the time we were trolling less than 100 yards from the shoreline. We made our own bait which was fun in it self as were using a sabiki rig to bring up four and fish a drop and some of the baits brought up were barely legal calico bass size. After filling up the live bait receiver we took off for the promised land.
We started trolling maybe 20-25 minutes from the Crocodile Bay pier. The water was blue, calm and the scenery on the shore was breath taking. You could tell this area is pretty much uninhabitated. It did not take long for Joe to hook up to a roosterfish. These fish are good fighters and this one pushed 18 to 20 pounds. After a quick photo shoot, it was quickly put back into the water. Soon after that I was hooked up but this one was not a roosterfish. It was a pesky black tip shark. These sharks live in reef areas and were fun to catch even though they were not on our targeted species list. The black tip sharks jumped out of the water almost like a mako. Most were 3-4 feet long and I would guess about 10-12 pounds. My guess is that between Joe and I we caught nearly 10 of these. Since we were catching and releasing, and these were so fun it was fine with us.
The other pesky fish was needlefish. One of our highlights was watching two, 5-foot needlefish glide on top of the water to try and get the same bait. It looked like two missles on a collision course. We missed quite a few of these toothy fish and actually we were mad they were going through our bait.
We caught a few more small roosterfish and decided to go try and catch some bottom fish for dinner. We moved from the shoreline to about ½ mile off the beach and put our bait on the bottom in anticipation of some grouper or snapper. I caught a couple of snapper that became one of the most delicious dinners I have ever had. It is always nice to eat fish that fresh.
We also had a whale shark come right up to the boat and hang with us for about 5 minutes. It was pretty cool almost not real. That is a memory that will be with me for a while. Joe took a video of it that will be talked about for a long time. This was a great day.
The one thing that really stuck with me in my two visits was how friendly and attentive the staff is. Cory who is the general manager, Olimpia, Flory, Maria, Dennis, Diego, Joje and Allan were the people we dealt with the most and all made our trip better if that is even humanly possible. Allan is in charge of the fishing and does a wonderful job working with the captains on options where to fish and what boats to put the customers on.
All the great customer service, friendly staff, great food and wide variety of things to do was just a cherry on top of the sundae. I am pretty sure this inshore trip redeemed the last time I was there and made a bad call. And in all honesty, one doesn’t need a reason to come back or go to Crocodile Bay. Just realize that after being there a few days you will be wondering why you have to leave.
Greetings from the Tropics – July 2019 Fishing Report
Capt. Allan Smith
The Golfo Dulce, a pristine tropical fjord on the eastern shore of the Osa Peninsula in the southern zone of Costa Rica, is one of a handful of tropical fjords in the world. Forbes travel contributor Lavanya Sunkara recently described the Golfo Dulce as “Costa Rica’s Best Kept Secret”.
There is so much happening in the relatively small area — around 750 square kilometers — that is impossible to experience it all in a short time. Golfito and Puerto Jimenez are the most populated areas along the gulf, and Zancudo and Pavones are popular places to visit.
Golfito has had an up-and-down history going back to the banana plantation days when the town was bustling. There was a movie theater, bowling alley, golf course and lots of employment — although many employees “owed their soul to the company store,” so to speak. The United Fruit Company pulled up stakes in 1985 after employees went on strike.
The government later built a duty-free shopping center, where people from all over the country can purchase home products without import tax. Shoppers are forced to overnight Golfito, which creates a national tourist industry for local hotels and restaurants.
The town has undergone a face lift, trying to make the change from a port town to an international tourist destination. People like Mauricio Arbuloa, from the Golfito Tourism Chamber, have been working hard to bring a new vision to the town.
Artisanal fishing has always been a big part of Golfito culture. Years ago, fishermen rarely left the gulf and were rewarded with tuna, dorado, and snapper. Marlin and sailfish also entered the gulf. Today, fleets must head to the open ocean for tuna and dorado. About a decade ago, the gulf became the largest Marina Area of Responsible Fishing in Central America, outlawing shrimp trawling and gill nets inside the gulf. Still, artisanal fishing is a hard living but runs in the blood for many.
Puerto Jimenez has the busiest non-international airport in the country. A gateway to Corcovado Park, many eco and yoga resorts, as well as a prime sportfishing destination, Puerto Jimenez sees everything from backpackers to millionaires pass through daily. Once a gold-mining town, it now thrives on tourism. It has easy access to primary rainforest near Cabo Matapalo, for those who can’t go all the way to Corcovado National Park. Eco-adventures are available at almost all the hotels as well as private guides and tour companies in town.
Folklore has made a connection between the Golfo Dulce near Ricon to UFOs. Depths of 900 feet are recorded in that area, and legend says flying saucers flew from the sky into the gulf and followed a series of underwater tunnels that reached as far as the Sierpe wetlands.
Puerto Jimenez is also the closest port to the open Pacific Ocean with protection from the elements. Traveling boaters often make a stopover, and during the high season, two smaller cruise ships now make weekly visits. It has easy access to marlin and sailfish offshore, and inside the gulf, roosterfish and cubera are abundant for the sporting angler.
The Golfo Dulce is also a surfer’s paradise, with four major breaks suited for different levels of experience. Probably the most famous — that many would like to keep for themselves — is Pavones, which boasts the second-longest left break in the world. People from all over the globe flock there for the experience.
The other side of the gulf has three breaks, starting with the biggest at Matapalo point. This break is for experienced surfers, as the waves are often big and it is rocky below. Moving just inside the gulf takes you to a break called Backwash, which offers head-high or better surf and is not quite the bone crusher as Matapalo. A little farther in is Pan Dulce (Sweet Bread), which is much more suited for folks learning or less experienced in surfing.
The Golfo Dulce is also full of life. For such a small area, you will find more marine life than in many parts of the world.
Humpback whales arrive twice a year: first, a group from the Northern Hemisphere in January and February, and a larger group from the Southern Hemisphere in August and September. Their reason for visiting is the same. It is a protected area from predators for their newborn calves to nurse, play and learn how to breach.
There are often big pods of bottlenose and other types of dolphins. They can often be seen playing or following tour boats as they explore the gulf. While looking for dolphins, it is not uncommon to spot manta rays finning the surface or jumping high to impress a potential mate.
Thanks to the work of biologist Didiher Chacón and his team from Latin American Sea Turtle, we know a lot more about turtles in the Golfo Dulce than before. Chacon discovered the gulf is a major feeding ground for the Pacific green turtle. They do not nest in the area, but he has captured and tagged many in the gulf. His discovery of a turtle previously tagged in the Galapagos Islands shows just how far they travel to feed in the area.
Whale sharks show up in a group of 12 or more to feed on plankton between Puerto Jimenez and La Palma each February or March. The are not big (by whale shark standards), averaging 20 to 25 feet in length. They hang around until the first heavy rains, when they move on — possibly because the runoff affects plankton production.
Other types of sharks also inhabit the gulf. There is a population of tiger sharks, and a connection to Cocos Island was recently discovered with hammerhead sharks. There is a massive population of juveniles in the gulf, and the gulf has been declared a shark sanctuary for hammerheads.
Amazing amounts of biodiversity in and around the Golfo Dulce make it a magical place.
Todd Staley has run fishing sport operations on both coasts of Costa Rica for over 25 years. He worked for Crocodile Bay Resort for around 17 of those 25 years. He recently decided to take some time off to devote full-time to marine conservation and is the communications director at FECOP. Contact him at email@example.com.
They enter through Panama at the canal and head in both directions.
Some go south, settling in Colombia and as far south as Ecuador. Others head north to Costa Rica, Nicaragua and as far as Guatemala. They pass in small groups or alone, but when they reach their Pacific-coast destinations, they group up with others that have made the passage. The coastline of southern Costa Rica is exactly what they need to thrive.
We are not talking about people; we are talking about tarpon, an Atlantic species and popular sport fish in the southern United States, the Caribbean, and the west coast of Africa. The Caribbean side of Costa Rica is world famous for its tarpon fishery.
The first tarpon was spotted in the locks of the Panama Canal in the late 1930’s, 25 years after the canal opened. Soon they were spotted in Panama Bay. Over the years, more and more sightings and captures have been recorded in the Eastern Tropical Pacific.
In recent years, the sightings have increased tremendously, but that could be for a variety of reasons. Maybe tarpon are now breeding in the Pacific. Although tarpon in the larvae stage have never been found in the Pacific, the capture of small juveniles suggest that they are breeding there. The chances that these little tarpon passed through the canal and migrated several hundred miles is slim.
The expansion of the canal in recent years has allowed for much bigger ships to pass as well as producing an easier passage for species that can survive the 65 km trek through freshwater lakes Gatun and Miraflores. In fact, more than 90 species of fauna and flora have been documented to have passed from one ocean to the other — either transported by ship or freely swimming across.
Social media and internet may also play a role in the increase of reported sighting of these silver bullets. Many sightings have been in rural or sparsely populated areas where before the communication to the outside word was limited.
In Costa Rica, tarpon captures have been documented in Tamarindo, Golfo Nicoya, Quepos, Sierpe and Golfo Dulce. The majority of these have been in Sierpe and Golfo Dulce, which have an estuary type of environment juvenile tarpon and adults alike use.
I saw my first tarpon in Golfo Dulce in 1995 when I was casting the Rio Esquinas side of the Gulf for small snapper. A fish of nearly 100 lbs rolled and took a gulp of air right next to my boat, and I thought I had lost my mind. This is a fish I knew well from fishing for them in Florida to running Archie Field’s Rio Colorado Tarpon Lodge here in Costa Rica. But this fish was not supposed to be here.
Around 2010, we started hooking eight to 10 a season while fishing for roosterfish when I managed the fishing at Crocodile Bay in Puerto Jimenez. The first one was 37 lbs and was brought to the dock because the captain had no idea what it was. Today, almost all are released. I have seen one as large as 123 lbs. Most captures occur in our Costa Rican summer months with March and April seeming to be peak times for an accidental encounter.
One angler who seems to encounter tarpon more than most is a local fisherman named Saul Porras. By trade, he is a mate on a sportfishing boat. When he is not fishing for work, he goes fishing for fun. He has caught more than a half dozen tarpon in the Pacific, and all of them were casting off the beach while fishing for snook. The little juvenile fish he caught off the beach at Carate adds weight to the theory that tarpon are breeding in the Pacific.
Porras watches for small sardines that school up near the shoreline. When they arrive, pelicans begin to dive on them. A short time later, the predators move in. He has learned by watching how the baitfish reacts to determine what type of fish is feeding on them. Jacks and roosterfish come in full-blown attack mode white water froths in the frenzy. Snook are more polite feeders and sneak in from underneath, causing smaller explosions of water.
A few weeks ago, Porras had set up near Tamales in the Golfo Dulce. The sardines started to go crazy and he saw big silver flashes breaking the water as they chased the baitfish. In short order, he was hooked up and a tarpon went immediately airborne. Catching a tarpon on light gear in a boat is an accomplishment, but off the beach even more so. To catch one in the Pacific Ocean is like winning the lottery. That day he hooked five and landed three of them. (He released them all.) He has caught them in at least two other locations also.
A study has just been released on 80 years of tarpon migration through the Panama Canal. Bernald Pacheco from INCOPESCA, the entity in charge of Costa Rica fisheries and CIMAR at the University of Costa Rica, contributed to the study, which was led by Gustavo Castellanos with the Leibiz Center for Tropical Marine Research in Germany. The study is available online here.
I truly believe there a lot more tarpon in the Pacific than most people and scientists believe. Every year, the number of sightings increases, and anytime you catch three of anything that is not native to an area in one day, they have set up camp.
Todd Staley has run fishing sport operations on both coasts of Costa Rica for over 25 years. He worked for Crocodile Bay Resort for around 17 of those 25 years.
He recently decided to take some time off to devote full-time to marine conservation and is the communications director at FECOP. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Greetings from the Tropics – June 2019 Fishing Report
Capt. Allan Smith
Floribeth Valverde Quiros (Nicknamed “Flory”) is one of our most recognized employees as she’s been working in the restaurant and bar of Crocodile Bay for 18 years.
Flory has lived almost her whole life on the Osa Peninsula, as her entire family relocated here when she was only 3 years old. In 2001, just after graduating high school, she started working at Crocodile Bay.
After working for 8 years in the restaurant and bar she was offered the management position. She took to the task and has since created an extensive wine list and custom cocktail selection. One of her favorite cocktails is the “Tico Sour” a mix of Cacique, Lemon and Sugar. She says: “It is a bit sour, but the mix of sour and sweet is really great.”
What Flory loves most about her job at Crocodile Bay is that “It doesn’t feel like it is a hotel, it feels like you’re with family”.
While working at Crocodile Bay, Flory continued her higher education and worked herself through university and successfully completed her Masters degree in Touristic Business Administration and a separate degree in Education 2016. A year after her university graduation she was offered a position as a professor at the local Puerto Jimenez high school, where she graduated from 16 years prior. Now she’s teaching around 28 hours per week of tourism classes to senior high school kids in addition to managing the wait staff of the food and beverage department at Crocodile Bay.
Flory says: “It feels incredible to pass on the knowledge that I have gained over the past 18 years in the tourism industry at Crocodile Bay Resort, to the next generation of kids and tourism students on the Osa Peninsula”.
Family vacations are all about reconnecting with loved ones, experiencing new adventures and creating memories that will last a lifetime. Crocodile Bay Resort is nestled in a region of Costa Rica that is abundant with nature in its purest form. There is no better environment to explore with your family and to open the mind of a child to the power of nature. While Crocodile Bay has been known for its world-class sport fishing for the last 20 years, there is now so much more to discover with the entire family.
At Crocodile Bay, your gateway to the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica, we offer an enticing experience that will introduce your whole family to both the tropical rainforest , which contains 3% of our planet’s biodiversity, and the deep blue waters of our tropical fiord, Golfo Dulce, which has an array of magical marine life such as whales, whale sharks and super pods of dolphins. The Osa Peninsula is a place to be explored, experienced and marveled at.
Being chosen as a ‘Top Family Fishing Destination’ by Sport Fishing Magazine is a real honor for Crocodile Bay. We are proud of the fact that families trust us to not only offer a safe and fun fishing experience but also to educate their children on conservation, wildlife and an overall understanding of the rainforest.
Below is the link to the original article by Sport Fishing Magazine (released in June 2019):
Greetings from the Tropics – May 2019 Fishing Report
As long as the blue water stays in close, the offshore billfish action should continue to bear fruit. May and June are historically good months to catch yellowfin tuna. Though the big tuna and spinner dolphins have not been as prevalent compared to other years, that may be changing. I heard several reports last week that found the tuna may be moving back into our area.
Capt. Allan Smith
Anthony Santos is one of our fishing captains at Crocodile Bay Resort and he has been working at Crocodile Bay for the better part of 14 years. He is also Olimpia’s son and is originally from Panama.
In Panama his specialty was the ‘Art of Fly fishing’ and he honored his skill while working for a fly-fishing company. From the very beginning at Crocodile Bay, Anthony absorbed as much fishing knowledge from the other captains as he could. They taught him how to catch roosterfish and the other inshore Costa Rican fish species. But it was the colorful roosterfish that impressed him the most, because of its power and will to fight.
Anthony doesn’t just love fly-fishing and catching roosterfish, he generally loves fishing all around the Osa Peninsula. He says that every day you can have new exciting fishing experiences in the Golfo Dulce, as well as going after the big billfish offshore from the Osa Peninsula. One of his most memorable experiences was fishing with one of our returning guests, Andy. They raised 7 marlins (including two blue and one black marlin) and hooked around 20 plus dorado with plenty of tuna in one single day. There were other boats around them who weren’t catching much at all, but Anthony and Andy were on a roll.
Anthony is frequently mentioned in our reviews on TripAdvisor. In a review from February 2019, they write: “TIP: for inshore fishing ask to fish with Anthony, the roosterfish whisperer!”, and another review from March 2019 states:” The roosterfish was pretty special. No one was catching them so everyone was going offshore. Alan asked captain Anthony to take me out and prove them all wrong. We did just that by hooking 11 roosters and landing 9, with the biggest being a 70-pound beast. It was a long and wonderful fight. Anthony has been fishing them for 22 years and this was the largest one he has ever landed in one of his boats. I haven’t seen a captain that excited over a fish in a very long time. I will certainly treasure the experience.”
At this time of year, many of the inquiries about vacationing at Crocodile Bay Resort are about our ‘Green Season’. We call it ‘Green’ because it is the time of year when everything comes alive on the Osa Peninsula, and the afternoon showers revive both the flora and the fauna. And where the shades of green are so numerous they are impossible to count.
We decided to list 5 more incredible reasons to visit us here on the Osa Peninsula at Crocodile Bay, a place where you may wish to come for the fishing, but you’ll stay for the opportunity to stand with Mother Nature and share in all the energy of this magical place. In 2019, Crocodile Bay Resort has ushered in a tackle box of new possibilities and experiences.
Immerse yourself in Costa Rican Culture - And Chocolate!
Osa Peninsula - Humpack Whale Migration
Costa Rica's Premier Sport Fishing and Eco Resort
Choose from 30 Eco Expeditions at Crocodile Bay
Enter to Win a Three Day VIP Sport Fishing Trip at Crocodile Bay Resort, Costa Rica!
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